Best Practices for Discussion

Our best practices for the discussion and the communication process.

The discussion process

Discuss Data aims to, but is in no way obliged to, apply a discussion process to all Data Collections after they are made available on the Platform.

The discussion process is organized by the responsible Curator(s), who approach potential Data Discussants. Discuss Data aims to engage Discussants who share the same epistemological views and methodological preferences as the respective Data Depositors. One or more potential Data Discussants can be requested for their expertise.

Also, Data Depositors have the opportunity to suggest potential Data Discussants from whom the Curators can, but are in no way obliged to, choose Data Discussants for the Data Collection in question. The discussion process should be conducted in a timely fashion.

What is a data discussant?

The discussion of research data is at the heart of Discuss Data: Organized by Curators responsible for specific topics (= categories, e. g. protests), it brings together the Data Depositors with so called Data Discussants – experts with a similar research focus, methodological approach or epistemological view, who assess the Data Collections.

The discussion, which after an initial feedback from the Data Discussants is open to all users of Discuss Data, allows for a unique and broad (inter-)disciplinary interactive academic discussion about the quality of Data Collections. Thus, Discuss Data makes a substantial contribution to the quality assurance of Data Collections. Data Discussants are essential for this process.

Data Discussants resemble peer reviewers from academic journals, but differ in one major peculiarity: Data Discussants are not anonymous. Likewise, Data Discussants, in difference to peer reviewers, see who the owners of the Data Collection are. Thus, Data Discussants rather resemble discussants at conference panels.

The rationale is that the discussion about the quality of a Data Collection is an integral part of the online discussion and communication process of Discuss Data and should be conducted in a transparent manner. Data Discussants and Data Depositors, who submit the Data Collection, are expected to engage in a direct communication, especially if Data Discussants have suggestions for improvements.

The Curators aim to engage Data Discussants who share the same epistemological views and methodological preferences as the respective Data Depositors.

Data Discussants need to register as Discuss Data Users, in order to comment on the Data Collections.

Communication between discussants and data providers

The discussion process on Discuss Data is meant to foster discussion, learning, and improvement of the uploaded Data Collections. The Curator acts as the link/liaison between the Discussant and the Data Depositor in order to reduce possible tensions. Discussions about possible improvements of Data Collections between Discussants and Data Depositors can be joined by other Registered Users via the “Comment” function.

Contributions to the discussion can either be private, only visible for the Data Depositor, or public and therefore visible for all. As the idea of Discuss Data is to foster a discussion among the research community, we encourage our users to opt for public comments wherever possible.

Possible improvements resulting from the recommendations of the Discussants will be uploaded and marked as a new version of the Data Collection, while the DOI stays the same.

In order not to offend other Users, it’s important to maintain an open, friendly and respectful dialogue. Please adhere to the guidelines in our Netiquette.

How to add a "good" contribution to the discussion

All discussions should follow some common criteria. On the basis of the Data Collection and the detailed Documentation of Data Collection, the Data Discussants should touch upon such aspects as:

  • Methodology of Data Collection: handling of empirical challenges such as sampling (in the case of interviews and surveys), validity of the provided data, reliability of sources which provided the data
  • Completeness of the Data Collection
  • Applicability of the Data Collection for the research question of the Data Depositor
  • Applicability of the Data Collection for further purposes (e.g., secondary analysis: What can be done with this Data Collection and what not?)
  • Possible problems regarding copyright, ethics and data dissemination

You can also have a look at the Checklist with proposals for documenting a Data Collection and the Best Practices: Documentation of Data Collection, which Data Depositors may use for drafting the Documentation.

Data Discussants write brief comments with major assessments, conclusions, and recommendations for the Data Depositor to improve the Data Set and/or its Documentation of Data Collection. This comment is posted under the entry of the respective Data Collection and “opens” the public discussion, which resembles a Facebook-like comment thread and give the Data Depositor and other Users of Discuss Data the possibility to join the discussion via the comment function.

Example comment

Discuss Data does not expect all-encompassing, comprehensive reviews on every aspect of the Data Collection from the Data Discussants. Instead, one to three incisive comments about the quality of the Data Collection shall be provided. This could for example look like the following example for a comment on a Data Collection about survey data on protests in Russia:

“It is important to note that even the most professional pollster cannot solve issues related to selected interview partners declining to take part in a survey or giving dishonest answers. For the case of Russia, it has been claimed that only a small part of the populace, between 10% and 30%, is willing to take part in public opinion surveys (

At the same time, in a public opinion poll conducted by the Levada Center in July 2016, only 30% of respondents stated that they would always honestly answer questions related to politics; furthermore, only 12% of them assumed that other people would do so (”

This comment points to two problems which often occur in gathering data in Russia and provides links to the sources for further reading.